Creating a Culture of Innovation

There have been times I sat down with a client and I told them, “your organization is very innovative”, but they don’t believe me. I tell them, if you don’t perceive yourself as innovative, then you’re not. Therefore, it’s critical to get both your internal and external stakeholders to see the truth.

Here’s what they need to see and believe:

An innovative corporate culture is one that supports the creation of new ideas and the implementation of those ideas. Leaders must help employees see innovation in practice as a regular part of how the company does business.

See innovation as a competency

Innovation is a skill, not a gift.  It can be learned by anyone and applied systematically. Innovative companies treat it as just another core skill by:

  • Creating a well-defined set of innovation competencies and embedding them into every employee’s competency model along with other required behaviors such as ethics and leadership.
  • Conducting regular training courses in creativity methods and innovation management.
  • Staffing internal innovation experts and coaches who work with teams to help guide their innovation efforts and facilitate their success.
  • Rewarding employees for innovation, both the results of as well as efforts to become more innovative.

See innovation as a competitive weapon

Innovative companies use innovation to differentiate themselves by:

  • Conducting regular idea generation workshops within business units
  • Deploying innovation methods within planning and strategy initiatives
  • Innovating from the core competencies of the firm as the starting point

See innovation as a process

Innovative companies don’t treat innovation as special, unique activity. They see it instead as an ongoing “stream of effort” along with quality, leadership, productivity, and other imperatives.  They do this by:

  • Avoiding the temptation to brand the innovation program
  • Developing an idea management and tracking capability
  • Linking innovation to all key processes including financial, commercial, and technical.

See innovation as both systematic and opportunistic 

The most innovative companies flex between different styles of creating opportunity by:

  • Sponsoring employees for taking risks and championing new ideas through to execution
  • Being open to ideas from outside sources to make non-obvious connections to internal projects.
  • Experimenting and piloting new ways to apply innovation methods
  • Collaborating with like-minded companies in non-competing industries to source new ideas and trends.

Most importantly, you as a marketing leader must constantly remind both your employees and external stakeholders how innovative the company is. It’s the perception from these two groups that drive an innovative culture.